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First Cases of Influenza Season Appear in Minnesota

OCT 24, 2016 | EINAV KEET
The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting their first influenza cases of the 2016-2017 season, showing early and sporadic flu activity that has health officials reminding state residents to get the influenza vaccine.

During the 2015-2016 flu season, 49.7% of Minnesota residents ages 6 months and older received the flu shot, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That rate is higher than the national average of 45.6% for flu vaccine coverage for the year. South Dakota ranked the highest in coverage last flu season with 56.6%, while Nevada ranked the lowest with 36.8%. As the flu season begins each year in October and November, CDC and state health officials from around the country remind the public about the important role that the flu shot can play in preventing illness, hospitalization, and even death. This year, CDC director Tom Friedan, MD, MPH, is urging all Americans ages 6 months and older to receive the flu shot.

While overall flu activity is low so far this season in the United States, this is the time of year when the first cases begin to appear. With that, state health departments are beginning to release their reports on early season flu activity in their states, and officials in Minnesota are confirming an outbreak of influenza-like illnesses and three flu-related hospitalizations in the state. At least a dozen Minnesota residents are believed to have cases of the flu. In the neighboring state of North Dakota, several counties have reported flu cases, with at least 11 confirmed cases of Type A viruses and 3 confirmed cases of Type B viruses.

This season’s North American trivalent flu vaccine has components for viruses A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus, A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage), with a fourth B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus component included in quadrivalent vaccines. As long as the circulating influenza viruses detected by CDC surveillance efforts don’t undergo any sudden antigenic shifts, health officials expect this season’s vaccine to work well in preventing flu-related illnesses. Inactivated influenza vaccines can cause some reactions, often similar to mild flu symptoms. Soreness at vaccine injection site, hoarseness, itchy eyes, cough, fever, aches, headache, and fatigue are all common side effects of the flu shot, but it can stave off the potential for more serious effects caused by influenza infection.

Minnesota health officials echo reminders from the CDC on things measures to take to prevent getting the flu. Aside from receiving a vaccine, the CDC shares important hygienic measures that can be taken to limit risk of infection and illness:
  • Try to avoid close contact with individuals who are infected.
  • On the reverse side, if you are sick, limit contact with others to avoid transmitting the infection.
  • If sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours post-fever except to receive medical care or obtain other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Discard the tissue in the trash after use.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub, if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Avoid touching your face: eyes, nose and mouth, in order to limit the spread of germs.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have become contaminated.
  • See Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for more information about additional preventive actions that people and communities can take in order to slow the spread of infections.
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to make illness-related symptoms milder and shorten the length of illness.
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